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Sam Cooke’s Wonderful World.

12 Apr

Geography and History Confused?

When Sam Cooke wrote the lyrics to the award winning hit ‘What a Wonderful World’ in 1959, he was telling us that he ‘did not know much about Genealogy’. You might now be humming the tune to yourself , frantically searching for the word ‘genealogy’ and you would be correct in confirming, it is not there. None the less, the references to history and geography are and my point is that without some knowledge of both, it is sometimes difficult to understand Genealogy and wok through the plot that is your family history. in fact, both things help us understand much more.

In USA, if your ancestors are heading to Eldorado, California in the late 1840’s, you might well have struck gold. If they settled in Hahndorf, South Australia in 1838 there is a strong chance you have Lutheran Origins. Both, like many other historical migrations can be attributed to a time in history or a significant historical event. Historical knowledge of the region of your family ancestors may open a door to your past.

In the UK, most historical migration can be attributed to economical reasons, pretty much as today though with the added factor of the Industrial revolution. The Industrial revolution resulted in the decline of manual industries as we know them and large numbers of farmers and country dwellers headed to the commercial centres of the countries large cities and ports, where steam ships and trains imported products and materials for manufacturing. The birth of the manufacturing sector in the UK in the late 1800’s saw City’s, previously not much more than walled towns, develop into large sprawling masses, swallowing up every bit of green for miles and miles. London was a prime example; the areas close to Buckingham Palace had been farm land and fields until 1820. This was common across the whole of what is the London today, a conurbation of nothing more than small insignificant villages. Historically, this progress led to great wealth but also to occurrences of historical disaster, poverty and starvation. City’s of so many people became lonely and dark , matched only by the Victorian’s creation of such ill-advised institutions as the Work Houses, which under Poor law were a feature of every large town and city across England.

Changing World

Before those days of economic migration, daily distance travelled was not more than a few miles for most people living a country life. You can almost plot the routine when it came to wife selection as very often the bride would be from a nearby village. It means of course, that family history is often intertwined with a series of surnames that recur every so many years. Where the village was placed geographically would also determine access to more further afield parts of the country. For example being placed on the Great North Road, would ensure that a horse drawn vehicle could be in London within 2 or 3 days and by 1825, the same locations would give rise to railway stations, opening up a whole new world of travel and leisure. Trips to the City or the seaside would also present opportunities in which one may meet a prospective spouse or employer, and in some cases both.

Thinking about the importance of geographical and historical knowledge, I heard a story about someone’s ancestor travelling over 2500km in the USA, in search of a future for their family. Well that is just about the distance from London to Moscow and by using horse power, it sure would take some time and determination and it’s certainly a distance that only the most pioneering of Victorian Britain’s could comprehend and they, themselves embarked on life changing journeys to the USA, Canada and other places overseas.

A little knowledge travels a long way.

Sam Cooke was born Samuel Cook on January 22, 1931, in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He was one of five boys (Willie, Sam, Charles Jr., L.C., and David) and three girls (Hattie, Mary, Agnes) born to Rev. Charles and Annie Mae Cook.


An experienced former Government Researcher and Investigator (UK) offering specialist services to descendants of families originating in the United Kingdom. Offering a special emphasis on Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire, I can research your ancestors from any region of England, Scotland and Wales providing all available personal details for your family tree. As well as being a member of the Society of Genealogists, I am also a member of several other UK based Family History Societies.
For more information Family Tree Services or any other Family History advice, please contact me. danny.billington

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